Optoacoustic (OA) tomography has demonstrated utility in identifying blood-rich malignancies in breast tissue. We describe the development and characterization of a laser OA imaging system for the prostate (LOIS-P). The system consists of a fiber-coupled -switched laser operating at , a commercial 128-channel ultrasonic probe, a digital signal processor, and software that uses the filtered radial back-projection algorithm for image reconstruction. The system is used to reconstruct OA images of a blood-rich lesion induced in vivo in a canine prostate. OA images obtained in vivo are compared to images acquired using ultrasound, the current gold standard for guiding biopsy of the prostate. Although key structural features such as the urethra could be identified with both imaging techniques, a bloody lesion representing a highly vascularized tumor could only be clearly identified in OA images. The advantages and limitations of both forward and backward illumination modes are also evaluated by collecting OA images of phantoms simulating blood vessels within tissue. System resolution is estimated to be in the radial direction of the acoustic array. The minimum detectable pressure signal is . Our results encourage further development toward a dual-modality OA/ultrasonic system for prostate imaging and image-guided biopsy.